When She Met Him
She was fifteen when she met him.
She was born, red-faced screaming into this world, when she met him.
She could hardly breathe when she met him.
She was seven, she was fifty-four, she was seventy-two when she met him.
She was a wife and a mother of four – almost thirty-seven years old, unable to sleep, a little overweight, unable to pinpoint the exact moment when those deep wrinkles appeared on her face but he brushed a gentle finger over her furrows and told her she was beautiful when she met him.
She was on the playground, hanging upside down on the monkey bars when she met him.
She was a Playboy Bunny, a photographer, a secretary at a talent agency when she met him.
She was desperately looking for a mentor when she met him.
She was a hostess in the restaurant he co-owned, a kitschy place full of odds and ends of his film career: posters, awards, still frames of his face. A face so comforting and familiar that when he walked through the door, she could barely fathom that he was real on the day she met him.
She was in recovery when she met him.
She was too young to be standing in the parking lot of a club in West Hollywood at last call, smoking cigarette after cigarette, waiting for friends to come pick her up when she met him.
She wanted to be a singer, an actress, a stand-up comedian, an author, a weather girl on the local news, a mother when she met him.
She couldn’t find her panties, they were lost on the vomit-soaked hotel carpet and they were lost to the fog of her memory because, clearly, she remembers it perfectly right until she remembers nothing – she’d been standing at the bar, alone, having just ordered a gin and tonic. The bartender set the drink down and she looked away for only a second but that was the moment. That was when she met him.
She was born again when she met him.
She was married to someone else when she met him.
She had a four-year-long relationship with him so no one believed her claims of ruin because why would she go back? Why would she let someone raze her down to the floor boards and just go back? How could she explain that the moments were strung together like pearls on barbed wire and could someone please just give her a break, and please just give her one moment’s grace, my god, she was only nineteen when she met him.
She became an unnamed witness in a criminal proceeding when she met him.
She was out walking her dog when he leaned out the open window of a passing car, his hand extended like a hammer ready to smash a mailbox. “Nice Pussy!” She cut her walk short on the day she met him.
She sat at the conference table, his leg brushing hers, once is an accident, twice is an accident, what is it called when he does it three, four, ten times, each time pressing longer and harder until he was so close, all she could smell was his expensive cologne: tobacco, Bergamot, spice, wood. She smelled the sweat of his body when she met him.
She walked into her fiance’s family home and was lifted up off her feet in a bear hug and he told her, “Call me Uncle John,” and she looked back at her fiance who smiled and nodded so she smiled and nodded, too, when she met him.
She balanced the till and counted his change down to the very last penny when she met him.
She was in love with a girl with thick mermaid hair and a powerful butterfly stroke. A girl, by the way, who would never love her back, could never love her back, no matter how hard she swam. She was still aching when she met him.
She did not consent to lay her body down at the base of an erupting volcano when she met him.
She had nothing, became nothing, felt nothing when she met him.
She’d met him once before, twice before, fifteen times already throughout the course of her life but it had not occurred to her count up all those other faces and to call them the same name. She saw only this face. She saw only this smile with its fine, white biting teeth. His thin lips curved like a kind hello. What a love, he’d already mastered hiding the barb at the end of his hook when she met him.
Brianne M. Kohl’s writing has appeared in various publications including Catapult, The Masters Review, and Bending Genres. She was the winner of the 2018 Wigleaf Mythic Picnic Prize for Fiction. She has a novel in-progress. Visit her at briannekohl.com or say hi at @BrianneKohl.
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